At the dinner table, my pre-teen kids and I sometimes play a game called, “I doubt it.”
Somebody says something about their day, and the rest of us get to say whether we believe it or not.
“Today in school, the electricity went out in the school, and we had to work by candlelight, like in the olden times.”
“I DOUBT IT!”
“I met Taylor Swift and she wants me to be a backup singer!”
“I DOUBT IT!”
“They were just handing out free tickets to Disney World today–flight and hotel included!”
“I DOUBT IT!”
It’s a silly game, but it’s fun and gives us permission to dream and imagine the seemingly impossible. It may be an overcorrection on my part, but when I was a kid, there was not permission given to say “I doubt it.” Not about the Bible anyway. But I had doubts–plenty of them–and I felt such guilt for them.
I was not allowed to voice that very human feeling of doubt, because doubt meant that I didn’t believe. And that was certainly not true for me. With the Easter season just beginning, we tell this crazy, unbelievable story of Jesus coming back to life. After Jesus was murdered, he was put in the grave, and three days later, he came back to life and spent time with his friends, teaching them and helping them to understand. This is what happens in fictional books our kids read–did this really truly happen to Jesus? And if it did, how was it possible? Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, had doubts. When the rest of the disciples saw Jesus after the resurrection, they told Thomas, and he said, in so many words, “I doubt it.” So when Jesus showed up again in the room, without opening any doors or windows, Jesus knew Thomas had doubts. He went directly to Thomas, and invited him to touch his wounds and sore spots. But Thomas didn’t even have to do touch Jesus to believe. Just the invitation to have his doubts gave Thomas what he needed to believe. Just the invitation to wonder was enough for Thomas to believe, enough for him to say, “Jesus, I believe!”
Our kids have doubts about the things we talk about in church, the things we believe, the faith we hold dear. And if we are raising them to believe in something, they have to have space to put that to the test. They have to have space to make it their own.
This doesn’t happen in great depth when they are very young, but as they get older they need space to question, to say, “I doubt it.” Doubt doesn’t mean we don’t believe. It means that we are trying to understand more deeply. It means we are trying to make our faith our own.
We can hold on tightly to our children, and ask them to believe what we do, or we can give a space for them to say, “I doubt it.”
I’m convinced that when we give them a safe place to ask their questions and to doubt, they will be stronger, more faithful followers because of it.
Just like Thomas.